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ACC Rising

Basketball’s always there but powerful ACC football? That’s a more recent development.

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North Carolina State v Syracuse

Now that the ACC has regained its place at the forefront of the college basketball parade, with two NCAA titles, 47 tournament wins, and a quartet of Final Four participants over the past three seasons, it appears league football is enjoying a renaissance as well.

Actually, for football it’s more of an awakening, a step toward the sort of national profile habitual in basketball circles. The conference spent many years in the football wilderness; for the majority of its existence it failed to place any teams in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll.

Lately, though, the adoption of Florida State, infusions of former Big East programs and plenty of TV dollars helped the league bolster its competitiveness.

Last season Clemson won the national title, only the seventh by an ACC program. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson became the league’s fourth Heisman Trophy winner, although Clemson’s Deshaun Watson was comparably deserving. The year before that the Tigers reached the championship game, also under Watson’s field leadership.

This season three different ACC teams have appeared in the top 10 – Clemson, Florida State and Miami. Virginia Tech has hung around that upper echelon too. NC State, long out of the polls, is building a special season and could also move into the game’s front rank.

Should two ACC squads (probably not injury-limited FSU) conclude the year at that rarefied level, it would mark the fourth time in five seasons a league pair made the top 10.

That’s in contrast to six times in the conference’s first 60 years.

Pairs of ACC Teams in AP Top 10 at Season’s End
Year Teams (Rankings)
1981 Clemson (1)*, North Carolina (9)
1990 Georgia Tech (2)*, Clemson (9)
1996 Florida State (3), North Carolina (10)
1997 Florida State (3), North Carolina (6)
1998 Florida State (3), Georgia Tech (9)
2007 Virginia Tech (9), Boston College (10)
2013 Florida State (1)*, Clemson (8)
2014 Florida State (5), Georgia Tech (8)
2016 Clemson (1)*, Florida State (8)
* National champion.
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